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Maryland signs amendments related to debt settlement services, mortgage lenders, and credit service businesses
On April 18, the Maryland Governor approved several bills concerning debt settlement service providers, mortgage lenders, and credit service businesses.
Under HB 59, registrants providing debt settlement services are required to apply for a license or renewal and obtain a valid unique identifier issued by the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System and Registry (NMLS) on or after July 1. HB 59 also requires the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation (OCFR) to establish a time period of at least two months within which registrants must transfer licensing information to NMLS. Additionally, registration fees are decreased to $400 from $1,000 for the issuance or renewal of a registration.
HB 61 amends the Annotated Code of Maryland related to mortgage lenders, loan servicers, and loan originators to, among other things, (i) alter and clarify certain tangible net worth requirements and criteria for mortgage lenders, servicers, and originators; (ii) repeal a provision that requires licensees to reapply for a license should a location change request not be filed in a timely manner with the OCFR; (iii) extend examination cycle periods; and (iv) amend certain expiration provisions related to mortgage loan originator licensees. The amendments take effect October 1.
Finally, SB 68 amends the definition of a “credit service business” to mean, among other things, any person who represents the ability to provide advice or assistance to consumers concerning improving a consumer’s credit record, establishing a new credit file, or obtaining credit extensions. SB 68 also exempts certain credit services businesses from certain information statement requirements when engaged to obtain an extension of credit for a consumer. Credit services businesses that qualify for an exemption must provide the consumer with certain information concerning the right to file a complaint as well as a copy of the contract before the consumer executes the contract. SB 68 takes effect October 1.
On March 26, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, in what appears to be the first significant decision on claims brought against a mortgage lender under the CFPB’s Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule, granted summary judgment in favor of the lender. The court rejected plaintiff’s claims that his bank improperly relied on income under his spousal support agreement, stating that “[t]he fact that Plaintiff and [his spouse] did not keep the separation agreement and instead opted to divorce – a series of events which reduced Plaintiff’s income by an order of magnitude – was not an event that was reasonably foreseeable to the Bank.” The court also noted that, “[a]lthough Plaintiff is now in his eighties, he is a repeat player in the field of real estate and mortgages, and a consumer of above-average sophistication.” While this decision does not break new legal ground, it does provide useful insights into how courts may respond to inherently fact-specific claims about the underwriting of individual loans.
On April 15, Mark Calabria was sworn in as the new Director of the FHFA and stressed the importance of mortgage finance reform in his first remarks in the role. Calabria warned that the current mortgage finance system remains “vulnerable,” noting that “[a]fter years of strong house price growth, too many remain locked out of housing, while others are dangerously leveraged. We must not let this opportunity for reform pass.” Calabria also acknowledged the March memo released by the White House, outlining the Administration’s plan for federal housing finance reform (covered by InfoBytes here) which, among other things, directs the Secretary of the Treasury to develop a plan to end the conservatorships of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs). Calabria stated that he looks forward to working with the Administration on such reforms.
On April 12, the DOJ announced that a multinational corporation will pay $1.5 billion in a settlement resolving claims brought under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) that a financial services subsidiary of the corporation misrepresented the quality of loans it originated in connection with the marketing and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). According to the DOJ, between 2005 and 2007, the majority of the mortgage loans sold by the subsidiary for inclusion in RMBS did not comply with the quality representations made about the loans. Specifically, the loan analysts allegedly approved mortgage loans that did not meet criteria outlined in the company’s underwriting guidelines, as they would receive additional compensation based on the number of loans they approved. The DOJ asserts that there were inadequate resources and authority for the subsidiary’s quality control department, resulting in deficiencies in risk management and fraud controls. Additionally, if an investment bank were to reject a loan due to defects in the loan file, the DOJ alleges the subsidiary would attempt to find a new purchaser, without disclosing the previous rejection or identifying the alleged defects. The corporation does not admit to any liability or wrongdoing, but agreed to pay a $1.5 billion civil money penalty to resolve the matter.
On April 2, the New Mexico governor signed HB 584, which amends the Collection Agency Regulatory Act and the Motor Vehicle Sales Finance Act to, among other things, require sales finance companies obtain a license to conduct business in the state. The bill outlines licensing requirements for such companies. State and national banks authorized to do business in the state are not required to obtain a license under the Motor Vehicle Sales Finance Act, “but shall comply with all of its other provisions.” Under HB 584, the Director of the Financial Institutions Division of the Regulation and Licensing Department may utilize the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System and Registry (NMLS) or other entities designated by the NMLS in order to receive and process licensing applications. The Director is also granted the authority to issue and deny licenses.
HB 584 also amends definitions used within the state’s Mortgage Loan Originator Licensing Act, and outlines provisions related to (i) licensing, registration, renewal, and testing requirements; (ii) certain exemptions; (iii) the issuance of temporary licenses to out-of-state mortgage loan originators who are both licensed through the NMLS and complete the mandatory education and testing requirements; and (iv) continuing education requirements. HB 584 also grants the Director the authority to establish rules for licensing challenges; “deny, suspend, revoke or decline to renew a licenses for a violation of the New Mexico Mortgage Loan Originator Licensing Act”; and impose civil penalties for violations.
Furthermore, HB 584 also amends the definitions used within the state’s Uniform Money Services Act and the Collection Agency Regulatory Act by listing licensing application requirements, and granting the Director the same authorities provided above.
The amendments take effect July 1, 2019.
On March 29, the Utah governor signed SB 121, which modifies certain title insurance definitions and provisions and adopts, with certain exceptions, Section 8 of RESPA for the purposes of state law governing affiliated business arrangements involving title entities. SB 121 “repeals existing provisions governing controlled business relationships in the title industry,” and permits an “affiliated business arrangement” as defined under 12 U.S. Code § 2602, with the exception that the “services that are the subject of the arrangement do not need to involve a federally related mortgage loan.”
Specifically, title entities with affiliated-business arrangements will be regulated by the state’s Division of Real Estate (Division), which has enforcement authority over the bill’s provisions, including over certain RESPA provisions against real estate licensees such as “failing to timely disclose to a buyer or seller an affiliated business relationship.” Title companies are also required to file annual reports to the Division related to affiliated business arrangements as well as capitalization for the previous calendar year. SB 121 further provides a specific list of RESPA violations pertaining to affiliated business arrangements. The amendments take effect 60 days after adjournment of the legislature.
On April 3, the Virginia governor signed SB 1737, which provides a 30-day stay of eviction and foreclosure proceedings for furloughed federal employees and contractors during a partial closure of the federal government. The law grants a tenant or homeowner who defaults on a housing payment after December 22, 2018, a 30-day stay on eviction or foreclosure proceedings. The tenant or homeowner must provide “written proof” that they were subject to a furlough, or were not otherwise receiving wages, as a result of the partial government shutdown that began on December 22, 2018. The tenant or homeowner must be an (i) employee of the federal government; (ii) a federal government contractor; or (iii) an employee of a contractor for the federal government. The law is effective immediately and expires on September 30.
On April 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit held that a consumer’s insurance repayment plan on her reverse mortgage did not qualify as an escrow account under RESPA’s Regulation X. According to the opinion, a consumer’s reverse mortgage required her to maintain hazard insurance on her property, which she elected to pay herself, and did not establish an escrow account with the mortgage servicer to pay her insurance and property taxes. After her insurance lapsed, the mortgage servicer advanced her over $5,000 in funds paid directly to her insurance carrier to ensure the property was covered, subject to a repayment agreement. After the consumer failed to make any payments under the agreement, the servicer initiated a foreclosure action against the consumer and obtained a forced-placed insurance policy when the insurance lapsed for a second time. Ultimately, a state-run forgivable loan program brought the consumer’s past due balance current and excess funds were placed in a trust to cover future insurance payments on the property. The consumer filed an action against the mortgage servicer alleging the servicer violated RESPA’s implementing Regulation X when it initiated forced-placed insurance, because the repayment agreement purportedly established an escrow account, which required the servicer to advance the funds for insurance. The district court entered judgment in favor of the servicer.
On appeal, the 11th Circuit agreed with the district court, concluding that no escrow account existed between the consumer and the servicer, emphasizing that nothing in the repayment agreement set aside funds for the servicer to pay insurance or taxes on the property in the future. The 11th Circuit rejected the consumer’s characterization of the repayment agreement as an arrangement under Regulation X “where the servicer adds a portion of the borrower’s payment to principal and subsequently deducts from principal the disbursements for escrow account items.” The 11th Circuit reasoned that not only did the consumer never make a principal payment to the servicer, the consumer’s characterization is “entirely inconsistent” with the reverse mortgage security instrument. Because the servicer never deducted anything from the principal when it disbursed funds to pay the insurance, the repayment agreement did not qualify as an escrow agreement under Regulation X.
California Court of Appeal upholds return of $331 million to NMS Deposit Fund despite legislative efforts
On April 2, the California Third District Court of Appeal upheld its July 2018 ruling that the state is required to return $331 million to the National Mortgage Settlement Deposit Fund (NMS Deposit Fund), reaching the same conclusion as it did previously notwithstanding newly enacted legislation. As previously covered by InfoBytes, three groups filed a lawsuit in 2014 against California Governor Jerry Brown and the state’s director of finance and controller alleging they unlawfully diverted money from the NMS Deposit Fund to make bond payments and offset general fund expenditures. The groups sought a writ of mandate compelling the state government to pay back approximately $350 million in diverted funds. After the Superior Court denied the writ, the Third District Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the money still belongs in the NMS Deposit Fund, and not in the state’s General Fund. The state petitioned to the State Supreme Court for review and while the petition was pending, the governor signed SB 861, which states, “It is the intent of the Legislature…to confirm that allocations and uses of funds made by the director of finance from the National Mortgage Special Deposit Fund pursuant to [section 12531] in the 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-14 fiscal years were consistent with legislative direction and intent and to abrogate the holding of the Court of Appeal in [this case]. The Legislature further declares that the allocations made by the director of finance pursuant to [section 12531] were made for purposes consistent with the National Mortgage Settlement.” The Supreme Court directed the Court of Appeal to vacate the July 2018 opinion and reconsider in light of SB 861.
The Court of Appeal, having considered the views of the legislature in SB 861, confirmed its original conclusion from July 2018. Specifically, the court stated that the defendants’ reading of SB 861, “would effectively defeat the purpose of creating a special deposit fund to house the money” and would disregard the former Attorney General’s instructions for use of the settlement money, which was part of the National Mortgage Settlement. The Court of Appeal noted that in SB 861, the legislature declared that “the allocations…were made consistent with the National Mortgage Settlement,” but emphasized that “such a ‘belief is not binding on a court. . . .’” and the interpretation is “an exercise of the judicial power the Constitution assigns to the courts.” Therefore, upon second review, the Court of Appeal again held that the trial court erred when it did not issue a writ of mandate ordering the diverted funds to be returned to the NMS Deposit Fund.
On March 29, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-19-10, encouraging relief for VA borrowers impacted by severe storms and flooding in Iowa. Among other things, the Circular encourages loan holders to (i) extend forbearance to borrowers in distress because of the severe storms and flooding; (ii) establish a 90-day moratorium from the disaster date on initiating new foreclosures on affected loans; (iii) waive late charges on affected loans; and (iv) suspend credit reporting. The Circular is effective until April 1, 2020. Mortgage servicers and veteran borrowers are also encouraged to review the VA’s Guidance on Natural Disasters.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on disaster relief here.
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